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Why Mitt Romney Is Losing Ohio

Those white working-class voters that supposedly won't support Obama? They have him up by 8 points in the polls.

Why is Mitt Romney losing Ohio?

In a word: labor.

Those famed white working-class voters that pollsters love to obsess over, make up a large chunk of Ohio's electorate, and they're not happy with the Bain Capital-ist and his history of calling for the auto industry's bankruptcy, endorsing attacks on their collective bargaining rights, and his plans—or lack thereof—for the economy. Barack Obama may not look like them, but Romney, as many have said, looks like the guy who fired them. And despite Republican governor John Kasich trying to take credit for improvements in the state's economy, Ohioans think that Democrats are a better bet when it comes to jobs. So it's no wonder that Romney's behind by 8 points or so in Ohio.

Kasich, indeed, can probably take some of the credit for Obama's popularity (and Senator Sherrod Brown's maintaining a lead in the polls despite some $20 million spent against him by big outside groups). The former Lehman Brothers banker and Fox News commentator may not have been quite as famous for his attacks on unions as neighboring Wisconsin's Scott Walker, but his anti-collective-bargaining bill, Senate Bill 5, was actually defeated by a resounding majority—more votes against the bill in 2011, an off-year, than voted in 2010 to elect Kasich.

And unions haven't been the only target of Kasich's administration and the GOP-led state legislature. The “War on Women” has been as intense in Ohio as anywhere else in the country, with attempts to tighten abortion restrictions with a “fetal heartbeat” bill leaving Republicans especially unpopular with the state's women.

But Ohio's not a done deal yet; particularly as it's also been ground zero for attacks on voting rights, aimed as usual at Democratic-leaning voters, people of color, the elderly, and low-income folks. If 2004's election taught Ohio progressives anything, it was that they have to fight for every vote. Republicans have an impressive ground game to go with their voter suppression plans, and Democrats and labor will have to counter it with a get-out-the-vote operation that takes advantage of the best asset they have: organized people, newly energized and trained in grassroots politics from the SB5 campaign.

An Injury to One Is an Injury to All: Senate Bill 5 and Collective Bargaining

Scott Walker may have become the public face of Republican attacks on labor, but Ohio's bill actually took aim at a larger swath of the population. “It was tremendously overreaching,” Mike Weinman of the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police told AlterNet of Senate Bill 5, noting that in Ohio the police and firefighters were included in the bill. And in part because of that, the state now has a more unified labor movement than many others. We Are Ohio, the umbrella organization for labor and community groups fighting the bill, included the FOP and firefighters' unions as well as teachers and other public workers.

“We took a very active role, much as we could, with We Are Ohio,” Weinman said, “A lot of this stuff was new to us, we hadn't really dealt with this type of issue before, so it's kind of different for us to sit at a table with all these folks. It worked out pretty well, but there was some apprehension there for a little while.”

“I think we won SB5 at the ballot box because people saw it as not fair,” Deb Steele, a longtime union and environmental organizer in the Columbus area, told AlterNet. Ohioans, she said, had an instinctive reaction to the idea of taking away union rights. “You can't force me to be in a union and you can't tell me I can't be in a union,” she said, is how Ohioans tend to feel.

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